Why You Haven't Made It In The Music Business Yet

By Tom Hess

Tired of not making progress in your music career? Until you abandon the amateur music career advice you have been given by others, you will not succeed in the music business. Following misinformed advice and anecdotes from those who have never ‘made it’ in music only takes you further away from achieving your music career dreams (read more in this article about becoming a successful professional musician).

With this in mind, highly successful musicians do not rely on these same assumptions. Instead, they work on developing specific personality traits and other valuable skills that are proven to generate long-lasting, successful music careers. Fortunately, these things are not ‘trade secrets’, unavailable to the public. Anyone can learn them and use them to advance their music careers (this includes you). In this article, I will discuss these qualities and help you use them to begin growing a successful music career for yourself.

Get ready to be surprised, because the qualities I will be mentioning will not have anything to do with your musical skills. The reason for this is because it is ‘understood’ in the music industry that you must develop ‘pro’ level musical skills (by working with a great teacher) at the same time as you work on your career. Having great musical skills is really only a small piece of the puzzle for music career success. In fact, there are countless people who are great ‘musicians’, but never go anywhere in their music careers.

Most of the qualities I will be discussing have to do with the way you ‘think’ rather than the specific actions you take. It is rare to find someone who has the right mindset that contains all of these qualities. However, you can get ‘trained’ to develop a success oriented mindset and thus massively increase your chances for making it in the music industry.

The following are the most crucial qualities needed for achieving major success in the music industry.

A Specific Type Of Work Ethic

Although most musicians realize that hard work of some kind is needed to make it in music, the overwhelming majority doesn’t understand what ‘type’ of work ethic is needed to truly become successful in the music industry. Becoming a successful pro musician requires much more than just spending a lot of time working on your music career... it requires:

1. Fully understanding the correct actions to take to move your music career in the right direction towards your goals. Simply working a lot of hours every day will not help you unless it is moving you closer to your goals.

2. Doing things the correct way (while wasting as little time as possible). It’s common for musicians to be ‘busy’. However, despite being busy, most musicians never really accomplish anything of great importance.

3. Being aware of how everything you do factors into the growth of your music career in the long term.

4. Having the ability to push through and work on things ‘ahead of time’, BEFORE seeing the results of your efforts. Recording your album or assembling a new band are two cases where this quality is essential to have.

The good news is, you can easily develop this type of work ethic by understanding your music career goals clearly and working with a mentor who can guide you through all the necessary steps needed to reach them.


As with any other industry, it is very difficult to become successful on your own in the music business. All music companies, band mates, managers and other musicians you associate with will be your ‘business partners’ in every project you pursue in the music industry. By working together, these people will be investing their personal resources into you and will expect you to maintain loyalty to them (just as you will expect the same of them). Disloyalty is punished harshly in the music industry as those who are disloyal are usually banned from future projects and career opportunities. Many musicians take this concept for granted and forget about maintaining mutually beneficial business relationships with their partners as soon as come across a better opportunity to advance their own music career further.

Certainly there are many different concepts of what it means to maintain loyalty to someone. In this case, loyalty describes not taking advantage of an opportunity to ‘get ahead’ while simultaneously creating conflict with those who you are working with. At the same time (of course), you cannot let others take advantage of you and bring you down for the sake of ‘loyalty’ itself. You must learn how to become perceptive in this area in order to truly achieve high success in your music career.

Learn more about what people are looking for in the music business by submitting your answers to this free music industry assessment.

The Ability To Bring More To The Table Than Just Playing Your Instrument

Regardless of whether or not you are working together with a record company to help you take care of the ‘business’ aspect of your music career, you will greatly benefit by having a working knowledge of how to: build a fan base, negotiate with others, communicate effectively, record music, write songs, think of creative and profitable business ideas, plan tours, book shows and much more.

Certainly you do not need to be the ‘best’ at all of these things (you should find others who are strong in the areas that you are weak in) and it isn’t always good to attempt to do everything on your own. That said, when you can do these things yourself, you become capable of adding a lot of value to any situation. This gives you the ability to:

1. Stand out as the ‘obvious choice’ for bands who are seeking new members

2. Determine different ways to earn a living in the music business

3. Not lose money when you have to hire others to perform tasks you cannot do

4. Make a lot more money due to the additional value you offer

5. Greatly increase the chances for success in any musical project you pursue

The main idea is that highly successful professional musicians are multi-dimensional, and do not merely ‘play an instrument’. This is why other musicians and music industry professionals always want to work with them (increasing their chances for success).

A Win/Win Thinking Mentality

It is common for most musicians to get into the music industry and only look out for their own best interests. There is nothing wrong with getting your own needs met (of course). However, there is a big difference between getting your needs met and doing so at the expense of others. To be highly successful in the music industry (or in general), you must develop the ability to find solutions that benefit everyone involved in any particular interaction. This approach can be applied to almost all interactions by simply taking the time to think things through from the perspective of all involved. This kind of mindset involves thinking in an entirely different manner than how most people think. This style of thinking is very rare and highly valued in the music industry. Members of my exclusive music career coaching program received training to help them incorporate this mindset into everything they do.

Freedom To Pursue Music Industry Opportunities

It’s a lot a less difficult to pursue any music industry related opportunities when you are free to do so. Gaining this freedom while putting together a music career is part of becoming a successful musician. Learn more about this concept by checking out this instructional article with advice for how to build a career in music.

Knowing How To Keep Calm During Situations Of Stress

As a professional musician you will encounter many situations that cause you to experience a high level of stress. These situations may include things like recording in the studio, going on tour, attempting to pursue different projects at once and many other scenarios that involve working together with tons of other people who all have different preferences and demands. This is a huge challenge that most musicians are unable to overcome.

Highly successful musicians have the ability to press forward through situations of stress and excel, while others (who think they are skilled in this area) are surprised when they find themselves crumbling under pressure. In my music career mentoring program, I help musicians prepare mentally for situations of high stress. This helps most musicians avoid very negative consequences that could hurt their music career.

The Ability To Always Think About ‘The Big Picture’

The music business is full of great opportunities as well as obstacles, difficulties and challenges depending on the specific road you take. Regardless of what you do in your music career, you will always have limited resources to work with. To make matters more difficult, you will frequently need to do all your work in advance before you ever reach your ultimate goal.

If you do not have a perfect vision of where you want to go in the music business, it will be very difficult not to become torn in different directions that take you far away from your original goals.

Musicians who make it in the music industry ALWAYS compare each action they take to what is needed to reach to the goals they desire most. This gives them the ability to judge whether or not any particular opportunity is worth their time and resources. As a result, they are able to achieve the things they want in the shortest amount of time possible.

Now that you have read about the crucial qualities needed for success in the music business, here are 4 things you should do to start building a successful long term music career:

1. Learn how to drastically improve your chances for great success in the music business by checking out this article about becoming a successful professional musician.

2. Find out if you are ‘ready’ for a highly successful music career by filling out your answers in this free music industry assessment.

3. After identifying your weaknesses using the previously mentioned assessment, develop a plan for how you will improve each one so you can move your music career forward.

4. Get trained by a mentor who has already achieved the things you want to do in the music industry to reach your music career goals faster.

Author's Bio: 

About The Author:
Tom Hess is a recording artist, music career mentor and virtuoso guitar player. He trains and mentors musicians of all different experience levels on how to develop a successful career in music. Visit his musician website to get free music career building tools and read professional music business columns.